Shereen Daver, global business director, Female Tribes and Bindu Sethi, chief strategy officer, J Walter Thompson India, speak with BrandWagon’s Shinmin Bali at the unveiling of the JWT Women’s Index in India about the crying need to take a step back and evaluate how women are spoken with, how the environment has evolved around them and tapping the female capital in advertising. Excerpts:
How does the Female Tribes report differentiate the female consumer segment from the male in terms of technology consumption, given that technology applies to both genders?
Shereen Daver: The study as a whole is about female insights. It is not meant to replace a segment but provide deeper insights into multi-dimensional aspects of women. The study came to be because women were being described as just ‘busy working mums’. It is meant to provide insights that can be utilised to change the narrative of how we engage women. We believe that the content that women see and how they are portrayed in both media and films impacts what they think they are or can be. We hope to change the conversation from looking at the responsibilities of women to celebrating their achievements.
What we are seeing in the study is that women don’t define themselves primarily as a mother. The study reveals that family is hugely important for women but that’s not necessarily a defining factor.
Bindu Sethi: We have seen in many other cases — when the family structure changes, the impact is not limited to the family but everybody around it. So if you are changing the conversation about women, it will have an impact on the conversation about men.
We have approached women in communication in a manner that we have assumed is the right way. Increasingly, across the J. Walter Thompson group, we came to realise that when we spoke to mothers across markets whether in person or via research we found them questioning, “Who are they talking to?”
How has the changing environment changed the planning or strategy roles in terms of addressing the consumer set?
Sethi: The environment has been injected with a new narrative. Now women don’t want to see themselves as a stereotype. As planners, we have to be sensitive to the fact that women want to be younger, younger for longer, active and achievers. They have heard the stereotypes for too long. The study does not show a contradiction in terms of wanting families versus having a career because women are natural nesters. They want to be ambitious, achieving nesters, successful nesters, etc so they want both career and a family and bring back their individuality.
Daver: It is often said when women succeed, the economy succeeds. Economically a successful woman will try to give back more to communities, charities, families and that will impact society as well. So for brands, this will augur well because women will spend more. If the narrative changes, women will have the power to change more around them; agencies and brands can perpetuate that change further.
Should there be an incentive for brands to try out new narratives?
Sethi: There’s always an incentive for that. Consumers award you with shifting their behaviour and adopting your brand and somebody else gives you (Cannes) Lions. I am not talking about the craft of creativity at the moment but I have a huge appetite for communication and creativity that puts on a different, authentic lens on the way brands should interact with their consumers. We are seeing more of this happening with either the Bell Bajao or Dumb Ways to Die or Real Beauty campaigns.
What does it mean for planning and strategy when catalysts such as technology keep the consumer base evolving?
Sethi: We just have to be listening to the consumer much more. That’s one of the biggest asks. At the agency, we are constantly doing social listening; our planners are in tune with what is happening on social media and how consumers are behaving. We prefer it when our planners go out and meet the consumers. We also run a diversified planning department. This gives us multiple lenses through which to view one scenario. We look at big data and TGI (target group index) data and we compare them to spot trends and where things are going.
For example, take food and sports — what food is the consumer consuming or rejecting or looking at health aspects gives you an impact of lifestyle diseases. On piecing all that together, you get a narrative about this person from various sides and you have to keep a tab on how the narrative is changing.
Does this mean that the planning and creative functions are closer than ever?
Sethi: I don’t think there is any point in having a planning function that does not inform creative. Planning has to inform both client and creative. What is the idea of communication? The idea is to be able to engage with the consumer to help her see things in a manner so that she will pick the brand. The bridge then is the person that understands the consumer, the human challenge.
How do you see creative, strategy and planning working together in the future?
Sethi: Today, we have collaborative sessions, even before we pen down ideas regarding a brief. We call these the dream sessions where all the people that will discuss and come up with the final solution come together including account management, creative and planners. Creative has an ambition to declutter and stand out. Planning has an ambition to catch the best and deepest insight and inform creative. Account management has an ambition to deliver the best solution to the client. These three things need to constantly inform each other and talk it out. I feel as an industry, we are imbibing this practice more and more. I see this evolving and becoming better. Collaboration is it. As a planner, I thrive on collaboration.